A new study shows that 48.9% of the population are unaware of the relationship between the emergence of infectious diseases and climate change.
The transmission of specific infectious diseases has been altered by climatic and environmental anomalies. It is widely known that an increase in infectious diseases is expected to be seen in mild climate due to climate change and climate patterns like El Niño are altering the presence, density, strength and dynamics of transmission of many viruses and pathogens.
While awareness has been raised for years about the perils of climate change, there is still a widespread lack of awareness about the effects that it has on infectious diseases.
What is Happening?
- The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE and conducted by students from the international master’s degree Erasmus Mundus IDOH+ (Infectious Disease and One Health) coordinated by the Université de Tours, the UAB and the Hannover Medical School, shows that almost half of the population is unaware of the relation between climate change and its effect on infectious diseases.
- 458 participants from around the world were surveyed to determine their knowledge of the effects of global warming on the emergence of infectious diseases.
- The results reveal a lack of knowledge among the general public, and with differences based on nationality and educational background. 48.9% of the participants had never before considered the effects of climate change on infectious diseases. This percentage falls to 38.4% among those with a solid knowledge of the natural sciences, and rises to 59.2% in those who work in sectors not related to science. The survey also demonstrated that knowledge and awareness of climate change is unrelated to the educational level of participants, given that scientific dissemination of environmentally-related topics has been highly intensified in the past years.
- 64.6% were afraid of contracting an infectious disease. In Europe, participants were less afraid (51.7%) than their US (71.4%) and Asian (87.7%) counterparts. With regard to protection measures, the large majority (70.5%) consult the need for vaccines before traveling to a tropical country. In line with this observation, 56.1% of participants were afraid of contracting an infectious disease in a tropical country, although differences were detected according to nationality: European participants were more afraid (72.0%), when compared to US (41.3%) and Asian participants (37.7%).
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Max van Wijk, Erasmus Mundus IDOH+ student and one of the authors of the study, says, “This data can help to establish intervention measures that can raise awareness among the public on issues related to climate change and infectious diseases, within the concept of One Health.”